US to ban TikTok?

Over the past few years, federal and state agencies in the US have moved to ban TikTok from government-owned devices. Last week, a bipartisan group of American lawmakers introduced a bill to ban the app altogether over concerns about sensitive user data being readily accessible to the Chinese government.

The comments I’ve read on numerous websites from people of all persuasions appear to be overwhelmingly in favor of this move, although the reasons are varied. Some cite the same concern as the lawmakers, that China’s government has too much information on Americans. In fairness, many also acknowledged having similar privacy concerns over US-based companies (think Meta/Facebook and Google) and government agencies but argued that this was a much-needed initial step towards eventually rectifying those issues as well.

Others have cited concerns over child development, noting shortened attention spans in the youngest cohorts. Similarly, dangerous “challenges” that have resulted in injuries and death of youth, with one resulting in at least 15 deaths of children under 12, have caused some to frame the app as a threat to public health. This is to say nothing of the link between social media use and negative mental health outcomes.

However, some question the legality of banning an app wholesale, arguing that it is effectively a violation of the US Constitution’s First Amendment protection of free speech insofar as social media, for better or worse, can be construed by some as a “public square” to voice opinions. Others question if it would be futile to ban TikTok as people would just shuffle to other social media which result in the same negative consequences and data harvesting.

I’m curious to hear the thoughts of people on here, both American and abroad, with the following questions in mind:

  1. Do you think such a ban would be effective, or do you even think it would be legal/constitutional (either in the US or if your own country followed suit)?
  2. Do you think another company will step up to make a TikTok clone, and if so, do you think it will be as successful?
  3. Might the period in which TikTok is banned cause introspection across society of whether we have a healthy relationship with technology?

Of course, also feel free to add your own questions/comments!

6 Likes

@whyoungblood I’m really glad you brought up this topic- I recently posted about the differences in the TikTok CHINA app & the one which is distributed in other parts of the world:

It’s also discussed here: Is TikTok made to be more addictive in the U.S. than it is in China? - Deseret News.
Basically, China’s version of TikTok offers a child-friendly version, with educational videos and a time limit , that isn’t offered in the U.S.

Then there is this segment on the new program 60 minutes in the US:

All of it makes me really wonder about how SAFE is this app.

3 Likes

@whyoungblood I think tiktok is useless. Most of my friends are on it, but tbh, I can’t see why- and what the appeal is. I read somewhere that the US government is trying to get it to be sold to a US company, but I don’t know how realistic that is.

2 Likes

You made interesting points here.

TikTok is useless for me, and its absence would be a wholesomer.

However, I firmly believe that knowledge and critical thinking are fundamental to a healthy society/country/world. I am not fond of banning as the easiest way. My experience in my area clearly shows it.

Banning something without a transparent discussion and different points of view is also useless.

1 Like

Yeah, they’ve been trying to sell it to a US-based company for a year or two now but ByteDance (TikTok’s owner) has been dragging their feet and it seems that Congress is getting tired of waiting. To be clear, there are broader privacy concerns which selling it to a US-based company would still leave unresolved, but it would at least be a start.

1 Like

As much as it pains me to say because I wish TikTok would just disappear, I agree that a ban may not be the best way to go about this. What is likely to happen is the creation of a US-based clone, so while the issue of China owning troves of user data will be resolved, we’ll still have all the other issues: atrophied attention spans, the glorification and proliferation of dangerous “challenges”, and of course sensitive data still being collected, just not by a foreign adversary.

I think a comprehensive solution to this issue is twofold, one that could be applied not just in the US but around the world. The first is a digital bill of rights, a version of which the EU has already implemented with GDPR, which would require private companies and government alike to respect end users’ decisions on how much data they want collected. The second is amending the American Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (or its international equivalents) to raise the age which social media can be accessed from 13 to 15 or 16, enforceable by requiring government-issued identification (such as a driver’s license, passport, or ID card) to sign up for those services.

One of the reasons I’ve heard parents give their kids smartphones at such young ages is because of peer pressure for them to join sites like TikTok and Snapchat since “that’s where all their friends are”. To be sure, parents need to stop being afraid to tell their kids “no” to smartphones until they’re developmentally ready for them, but I digress. Raising the age to use those apps would nonetheless likely result in less pressure for kids to have devices that access them, helping more children to develop psychologically in a healthy way.

2 Likes